How withdrawal of the incumbent changes factors in governor race

Governor Mohamed Abdi Mahamud.

The race for Wajir governor has taken a new twist after one of the candidates, incumbent governor Mohamed Abdi Mahamud abruptly quit the race days before the election on Tuesday.

Before that, Wajir election promised a unique scenario - it was the only election to have three former governors in the race. 

Abdi, as well as Ahmed Abdullahi Jiir and Ahmed Ali Muktar have all been governors of the county at one point.

Jiir, an Orange Democratic Movement party candidate was the first governor and lost to Abdi in the 2017 election. 

Muktar was deputy governor but served as governor for nine months following Abdi's impeachment. In February, the High Court in Meru reinstated Abdi. Muktar is now seeking to be elected on a United Democratic Alliance party ticket.

The race now has eight candidates, a mix of former National Assembly members and a senator. They are Abdullahi Siyad Abdille (Wiper), Adam Hassan Mohamed (Jubilee), Ali Abdullahi Ibrahim (United Democratic Movement), Elmi Mohamed Ibrahim (Independent), Mohamed Ugas Sheikh (ANC) and Warfa Sirad Osman (NARC).

August 9 promises a compelling election that could be decided by the dynamics of party and clan. Also likely to have an influence on the race are the track records and familiarity with voters.

Abdi’s withdrawal alters the dynamics of the race and could likely boost ex-governor Jiir’s bid. Jiir is seeking to recapture the seat he lost to Abdi.

The incumbent's running mate Abdifatah Diriye, who hails from the Maqbul sub-clan of the Ogaden, which is predominant in Wajir South, has thrown his weight behind Abdullahi.

Jiir is running on Raila Odinga’s ODM Party on the platform of restoring hope for the county. He has told voters that his successor ran down the county with financial mismanagement - leading to his impeachment and as a result service delivery has deteriorated.

Jiir, a public accounting and management consultant, served as a senior advisor at The Treasury after losing in 2017. "I believe I laid a very firm foundation for devolution in Wajir. We had a lot going for us and the subsequent government in my view has not served the people well," he said.

"I have unfinished business and want to get back and finish what I started. I want to fix the governance of this county, deal with the water scarcity, health, livestock and education issues."

Opinion polls conducted by Mizani Africa in Wajir place ODM as the most popular party at 33 per cent ahead of Jubilee and UDA. 

Party, as well as clan, could give Jiir a leg up as he runs for a third time. Also, he has picked Ahmed Muhumed, who ran against him in 2017, as his running mate.

Continuation of the projects

Jiir belongs to the Degodia clan of Somali Community who are the majority in Wajir. His running mate comes from the Ogaden clan.

There are, however, four other Degodia candidates in the contest. Three candidates hail from the Fai subclan of the Degodia. 

The former governor hopes that the endorsement by Degodia sub-clans such as Fardhano, Idiris, Gelible, Dumaal, Galjacel, Masare, Mithimal, Raqay, Adanyar, Jibrail will propel him over the line on Tuesday.

He is running on a platform of recovery and continuation of the projects he conceived during his term from 2013.

Another factor is the strong rivalry between Jubilee candidate Adam Hassan and Muktar.

Dr Adam won the Jubilee nomination after the party reached a consensus. He saw off the competition with the incumbent Abdi, and ex-Environment Chief Administrative Secretary Mohammed Elmi.

Muktar, 39, is on the ballot after having his ambition to be governor thwarted by negotiated democracy twice before. His intention was to vie for governor or the Wajir South MP seat in 2017 but the Council of Elders preferred other candidates.

His clan Ogaden is the second-largest in a region where political mobilisation of clans can determine winners and losers.

He and NARC candidate Osman Warfa belong to the community. Muktar served as governor for nine months until February this year.

One thing that both Muktar and Jiir agree on is that the county was being mismanaged.

“I was at the helm for nine months and we had the worst drought then we had Covid at its peak and I believe I managed well other than also handling the mess that was there when I was sworn in,” Muktar said.

He is hoping that his achievements in the those nine months, his age and the fact that many Degodia candidates will split the vote, will favour him.

Siyad, a health executive in the US, believes that he would be the best governor for Wajir and provide the best healthcare options because of his experience in healthcare management and policy.

Siyad is campaigning on the platform of being an outsider and someone who has not served in Parliament.

“I want the people of Wajir to have an opportunity for radical change. I believe everyone else who is seeking this great office might make changes from a place of incrementalism even at best because I believe there was a design flaw from the beginning," Siyad, a Wiper candidate said.

"I believe when you look at a problem for far too long you become part of the problem and Wajir needs an outsider; someone who is a true change agent; who can bring radical change and has not been part of the shackles of the day-to-day minutia of a very bloated government." 

Ugas Sheikh Mohammed of ANC in Kenya Kwanza Alliance was endorsed by the incumbent last week.